My favorite sign in many workplace kitchens is: “Please wash your dishes, your mother doesn’t work here.” Sharing a kitchen with work mates is like sharing living space with a roommate, you are thoughtful and considerate of their space and belongings and visa versa. So why do workplaces, populated by grown-ups need these signs? I don’t know, but they do.

Consideration and respect go a long way to building and maintaining peaceful working relationships. Here are a few of the least appreciated and annoying behaviors that participants have shared in some of the workshops that I’ve conducted:

  • Interrupting others when they are on the phone. Come back later or leave me a note.
  • ‘Borrowing’ office supplies without asking and not returning them.
  • Using the last of anything without letting anyone know or ordering more.
  • Leaving an empty paper cartridge or an error light in the photocopier.
  • Leaving crumbs and food stuffs out after making lunch or a snack.
  • Eating smelly food in open spaces or board rooms. Yes, tuna smells.
  • Thinking your priorities are more important than everyone else’s.
  • Not asking me for a favor just assuming I’ll do it.
  • Volunteering me for a committee or team event in my absence.
  • Snapping gum within 100 yards of my desk.
  • Drumming fingers, feet or a pen on your desk as you tap out the beat to whatever you’re listening to in your earphones.
  • Listening to music without earphones.
  • Listening to music with earphones so loudly that people around you have to hear the tinny sound of your tunes echoing around them.
  • Smelling like smoke and wafting it through the office, then breathing in my face after a cigarette break.
  • Making personal calls throughout the day and then complaining that you don’t have enough time to finish your work.
  • Talking baby talk to your child or boyfriend on the phone.
  • Asking for favors constantly but never offering any back.
  • Relying on my organizational skills when you lose things so as to cover your hide.
  • Saying “I’ll try” knowing full well you have no intention of trying at all.
  • Wearing too much perfume, cologne or after shave.

In one session when a participant stated one of the faux pas that drove her nuts, her table mate moaned, “I do that all the time, ahhhhh!”  Sometimes people really don’t realize that their behavior is driving others crazy. It’s usually okay to politely point it out to them. Respectfully.

Approach the offender calmly and with a kind tone, mention the behavior and how it is making you feel or react and ask for what you would like to happen instead.


When you do ….

I feel …..

I’d appreciate it if you could…..

At the end of the day, treat your workspace and surrounding areas like you are a guest there not the owner, and treat your coworkers like you are all high-level diplomats charged with keeping the peace.


Colleen Clarke, Career Specialist & Corporate Trainer

Author of Networking How to
Build Relationships That Count
, How to Get a Job and Keep

Co-author of The Power of Mentorship; The Mastermind